Monday, April 21, 2014

You Betcha

Have you seen the Coen brothers movie, Fargo? Like many of their films, it's dark, intense, genius, riveting, horrifying, funny, and in equal shares real and fantasy. It was released almost 20 years ago (in 1996), earned seven Academy Award nominations, and was inducted into the United States National Film Registry in 2006.

What I'm saying is, it's a pretty good movie.

So I cannot believe someone thought it would be a good idea to make a television show out of it. This seems to happen a lot and let's be honest, it's usually a disaster. Buffy the Vampire Slayer excluded, of course. But FX has decided to give it a go and last week the new television show Fargo premiered.

And it was brilliant. I know! I couldn't believe it either!

From the FX show website:
An original adaptation of the Academy Award®-winning feature film, Fargo features an all-new “true crime” story and follows a new case and new characters, all entrenched in the trademark humor, murder and “Minnesota nice” that made the film an enduring classic. Oscar® winner Billy Bob Thornton stars as “Lorne Malvo,” a rootless, manipulative man who meets and forever changes the life of small town insurance salesman “Lester Nygaard,” played by BAFTA Award® winner and Emmy®-nominated Martin Freeman.
I expected it to be dull and dumb, a pale imitation of its big screen predecessor. But instead it fits in perfectly with the movie, existing as a new story within the same universe without feeling derivative.

"You know, Lester, you should just kill all the people who bother you. It's the simplest way."

The creators of the show have made some very smart decisions. First, Fargo the tv show tells a different story with different characters than Fargo the movie. Sure, it still takes place in Minnesota and it still effortlessly blends the bleak winter landscape, the pleasantness of Midwesterners, and the sudden horror and violence of our darkest urges. And while the plot and characters feel familiar, the story and action are different.

Second, the casting is spot-on. Billy Bob Thornton is crazy on a good day and he just effortlessly slips into the role of the sociopathic Lorne Malvo, a man whose entire motivation thus far seems to be a love of chaos. He certainly has his own code (not a moral one though) and strives to break the bonds that hold people together. Is there a larger purpose to his madness? Who knows. But I will definitely stick around to find out.

As for Martin Freeman, he plays a sad-sack insurance salesman constantly beat down by those around him. He does his typical stammering twitchy shtick...but somehow manages to make a new character without reminding me constantly of Bilbo, Watson, or Arthur Dent. When I watching him, I'm not thinking "oh, there's Martin Freeman," but am instead thinking "this Lester guy is pathetic."

I could also go on about the supporting characters (Bob Odenkirk as the town sheriff and Allison Tolman as his clever and dedicated deputy), but I'll leave you to discover their charms on your own.

They're basically the best people ever. So I am sure something horrible will happen to them.

In case you couldn't already tell, I was pretty much blown away by the Fargo pilot. I would go as far as to say I was riveted which honestly doesn't happen a lot. Be warned though: it's a dark story that follows the Coen brothers style of scenes punctuated with sudden, shocking violence and/or intensity. It's not for the faint of heart. But if you give it a try, I think you'll find yourself captivated.

Fargo is a 10 episode limited run series that airs Tuesday evenings at 10:00 EST on FX. You can watch the first episode, "The Crocodile's Dilemma" on the FX website.

Final thought: the main action thus far takes place in the small Minnesota town of Bemidgi...where my Grandmother was born and we used to visit every summer as kids. There's not much there...

...except giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Dontcha know.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Murder Most Fair

Like World War I, Episode two of Game of Thrones second season, "The Lion and the Rose", featured a major character's death which will set into motion a cascade of events that threatens the newly won peace in Westeros. Maggie Cats and I are here to chat about what is rapidly shaping up to be a horrible idea if you live in Westeros: Getting married. 

Seriously. It amazes me how many geeks want Game of Thrones-themed weddings. Are they not paying attention?

 It goes without saying there are MAJOR SPOILERS afoot for those who haven't caught up yet, so proceed at your own risk. Seriously. It's your last chance. Stop now if you don't want anything given away. The big reveal is in the first line. You've been warned.

 Clovis:  Instead of starting with "what did you think?" how about a variation - how much did Joffrey's death  fit for you in terms of how much you wanted him to suffer relative to how much he actually did? Put another way - was the payoff worth it, or could you have stood to have had at least a few minutes more of sputtering on his part?

 Maggie Cats:  Let me work this one out. Fact: Joffrey is a sociopathic spoiled toolbag who needed to have hot pokers shoved into his eyes. Fact: he was also a kid and watching any kid choke to death on his own blood is horrifying. Especially when his parents are RIGHT. THERE. 

Even by Westeros standards, this is harsh.

Clovis:  Very true. This is another reason I like the actor - he plays this terrible person, but you saw how horrifyingly young he was to die that way.

 Maggie Cats:  I find myself quite conflicted about his mode of expiration actually. I don't think that I, as a viewer, needed more time to watch him suffer. I seem to remember in the book (I hate to always go back to the book, but whatcha gonna do), it took him waaaay longer to die. Because dying from lack of air actually takes a really really long time. It was like 5 minutes before he actually full on died. Which is even worse. So from that perspective, the TV audience kind of got off easy.

 Clovis:  I feel like there wouldn't be enough that could be done to him to make audiences feel they had gotten proper revenge, which is actually kind of the point – this story is fundamentally about how unfair life and humans can be. The villain doesn't always get his just desserts.

 Maggie Cats:  For it to feel like revenge for the audience, I don't think the death itself needed to be more protracted, but steps leading to it. Joffrey would need to be stripped of his throne, humiliated, made to understand his douchebaggery. Poisoning seems so....random.

 Clovis:  Death isn't enough for Joffrey. You want him humiliated, de-powered, destroyed. All the things he's done to others you want visited back on him. It makes me think that the scene they included earlier in the episode between Milesandre and Shireen was definitely emblematic of all this. Milesandre even has that great line about the only hell being the one that we've living in right now.

 Maggie Cats:  Exactly. It's not even the dying that's the important part. It's someone finally getting through to him that is a total c***. Which is of course exactly the opposite of what they teach you in all those seminars about being successful--you can't approach conflict with the attitude that you need to "win" the argument. But that's what you WANT. And Joffrey would never be like, "oh, you are so right, I am such an asshole."

 Clovis:  In fairness, those seminars also aren't oriented toward medieval survival.

 Maggie Cats:  Are you sure? You have never spent a holiday with my family.

 Clovis:  <rim shot>

 Maggie Cats:  Nailed it.

 Clovis:  Totally.

 Maggie Cats:  Anyway, it definitely speaks to the quality of the show (and the book) that you feel sympathy for Joffrey as he dies, despite his awfulness.

 Clovis:  Definitely. He's terrified. He's a little boy again because he's only, like, sixteen. All that bravado that we see him with earlier, cutting up Tyrion's book, mocking the War of the Five Kings, it's all just covering up his own issues and his own immaturity.

 Maggie Cats:  He's never really been anything but childish, which definitely helps with the gut punch during his death scene. He's like that kid in the Twilight Zone episode who is omnipotent. But also a brat.

 Clovis:  Speaking of the scene itself, I have never seen a more Game of Thrones: CSI episode than this one.

 Maggie Cats:  Well, don't forget CSI: Winterfell when Lady Stark was combing the tower for clues and discovered gasp golden hairs!

 Clovis:  That's true. It was a clear precursor. Watching this one with a bit of advanced knowledge, I loved how well framed the scene was showcasing all the potential murderers and laying little clues to the possible point where any one of them could have done it.


 Maggie Cats:  I actually thought they did a great job of not making it too much of a "something bad is going to happen soon" scene though, so when he actually died you were like WHAT THE HELL?? I need to go back and rewatch; I confess I had forgotten who actually did the deed in the books. I remember NOW though.

 Clovis:  It's never made absolutely clear, but the implication is that it is the Queen of Thorns. And they certainly set that up here - having her specifically play with Sansa's hair (I swear it looks like she palms something when she's touching her braid) and showcasing where they cup goes every time it leaves someone's hand EXCEPT for right before he picks it up again and it's been right at her table.

 Maggie Cats:  Not everyone remembers all the character's thirty names you know, Clovis. Let's just say: Margaery's Grandma.

 Clovis:  Fair enough, if i can also call her Grandma TopGun, because I think that's who she is really.  The scene was like the old con game of "follow the cup". It's in view at all times except for two or three strategic points - when it falls under the table and Sansa picks it up, when it rests at Grandma's table out of frame...

 Maggie Cats:  DUN! But again, unless you knew to look for that...I don't think a viewer would have noticed.

 Clovis:  No, not at all

 Maggie Cats:  Those clever HBO execs...they want me to rewatch!

 Clovis:  It's definitely there to be looked at once you know what's happened. But in terms of other things in this episode, I have to say that the thing that I appreciate again and again about this show is the dedication it takes to the smaller moments.

 Maggie Cats:  Do you mean all the character conversations?  We haven't had this many characters in one room since Season 1.  Loved them all, especially Cersei/Brienne.

 Clovis:  Yup, exactly. The best one being Cersei accusing her of being in love with Jamie. WHICH SHE TOTALLY IS.

It's like Mean Girls, only with be-headings.

 Maggie Cats:  I'm not sure she even thought about it though until Cersei said it. The actress who plays Brienne is really great; I mean they all are, but I love her extra much. Like how I love chocolate, but if you put peanut butter in there I am like OMG INFATUATED.

 Clovis:  Brienne doesn't even really have a vocabulary for love. She knows that she felt something for Renly, but isn't sure how to articulate it. Now she's feeling it again for Jaime, but this time it's with someone who at least actually knows her name and (maybe) feels something back.

 Maggie Cats:  Aw, poor emotionally stunted Brienne. Whatever, I am a total Brienne/Bear shipper.

 Clovis:  There is that lovely song about the two of them...

 Maggie Cats:  Speaking of songs... Rains of Castamere is officially overplayed. It's like Clear Channel owns all Westeros music stations. Enough!

 Clovis:  Even Joffrey was done with it. He threw the coins at the singers who barely made it through the first verse.

 Maggie Cats:  Nice to see some things are universal.

 Clovis:  Oh, another great small moment - Loras and Prince Oberyn totally eye-fucking each other from across the room.

 Maggie Cats:  HA, yes. That was hawt.


 Clovis:  I keep saying that with all the inter-relations that we've got going on here between the characters, this show is always only a few decapitations away from being Real Housewives of Westeros.

 Maggie Cats:  To be fair, they would need a shit more botox. Cersei would be first line for that injection.

 Clovis:  She'd cut a bitch. Literally.

 Maggie Cats:  bah dum dum.

 Clovis:  But contrary to our conversation so far, other things did actually happen in this episode. I, for one, was pleased to see crazy-ass Selyse, Stannis's nutty wife, return.

 Maggie Cats:  Oh, yeah. And I guess they burned her bro at the stake. As one does.

 Clovis:  And she's angling to do so to her own daughter if said whelp doesn't shape up. I loved the dinner set up - Selyse and Stannis at one end. Milesandre shoved down at the far end of the table.

 Maggie Cats:  Poor Davos. He is a man adrift in a sea of batshit crazy people. Seriously, he is so....steady. And yet: surrounded by crazy.

 Clovis:  I know, right? What's the phrase about never being a prophet in your own land?

 Maggie Cats:  He is a lot of people's favorite character. I think because he is the only halfway normal person. DESPITE all the stuff that he has gone through.

 Clovis:  Davos (and Milesandre) I think are really among the only True Believers in the show, even though they believe in different things.  As such, they both are arguably the closes to the sanest of the all the characters. Even though Milesandre is decidedly about her sanity.

 Maggie Cats:  I guess it depends on what it is people believe in. I think you could say Tywin is a "true" believer. In his ability to fuck you up if you mess with his family. The Lannisters are what he believes in.

 Clovis:  Yeah, I'd say so. For him, it's just about being faithful to the right path of his family, even if the individual members of that family don't live up. You could argue that Ned Stark was the ultimate True Believer and look what it did for him. Even bad ass Arya isn't a "true" believer though - she's far too motivated by her need for revenge.

 Maggie Cats:  I was going to suggest that, but he kind of backed off at the end. Remember when in the end he did lie--because he thought it would save Arya and Sansa.

 Clovis:  that's true. So in terms of going forward, what are you excited about seeing this season? Joffrey's death happen about halfway through book three with plenty of other developments on the horizon. Without giving away too many spoilers, what are you eager to see?

 Maggie Cats:  Honestly, I don't remember too much. Except for Prince Oberyn's reason for being in Kings Landing coming to a head. I try not to reread the books too close to the tv show since I want to be surprised. So I don't have a clear idea going forward of what will happen. It's probably been about 5 years since I read Storm of Swords.

 Clovis:  Have we really only had one Jon Snow scene so far? I'm personally interested in getting back to the Wall to see how they deal with the invasion of the Wildlings now that some of them have made it over.

 Maggie Cats:  But based on the two episodes we have seen, I want to see more progress in Bran's story. The vision flashes were very cool. And I always want to see more of Jon Snow's hair. So I concur.

 Clovis:  Yeah, i really liked them. In the books when he merges with the trees he can see all sorts of things from all sorts of times. I wonder if they'll use this as an avenue for showing us some of the historical backstory.

"My character's sole purpose so far in this show has just been to be a plot device."

 Maggie Cats:  That's a good idea, maybe some stuff about the First Men, etc. But I am over that fucking three-eyed crow. You know what I need? A stuffed three-eyed crow for my living room. It would really tie the place together.

 Clovis:  It would go well with your iron maiden and your cask of amontillado.

 Maggie Cats:  Don't forget the guillotine. So fun at parties!

 Clovis:  How could I? Madame, her kiss is legend.

 Maggie Cats:  *eyeroll. In the nicest way possible, I mean. If you start quoting Proust I am out of here.
 Clovis:  accepted that way, I assure you. And I'll avoid the Proust. I've had too much grad school in my life to subject anyone to that.

 Maggie Cats:  Anything else you are looking forward to seeing?

 Clovis:   As we said last week, I'm really eager to see what they do with Margaery. In the books she kind of fades into the background after Joffrey's death, at least for a little while. I want to see if they develop her out a bit more. I would pay good money to watch her and Cersei fighting over the Iron Throne.

 Maggie Cats:  I think they will, they showed her in the preview for the next episode. And she is kind of established now. I mean, she IS technically queen. Bitch should just take over.

 Clovis:  Exactly. And the people love her and hate her mother-in-law. Margaery can totally rally the people to her side. The question I've got (for both the book and the show) is how much did she know that Joffrey would be killed? She's not naive, and she's got to be relieved that she doesn't have to actually live with the little demon, but clearly it was always her intent to ascend to this position. There's a reason why she married Renly, after all.

 Maggie Cats:  I never had the impression she knew what was going down.

 Clovis:  So is she just mentally nimble enough to take that crown and run with it until Cersei rips it off her head? Cersei is often ineffectual, but she does know how to move quickly. And TV Cersei is portrayed as savvier than Book Cersei.

 Maggie Cats:  I don't know the answers to any of this...which makes me really happy and excited about the season moving forward!

 Clovis:  Agreed. Me too.

That's it for this week. Join us again next week for episode three - "Breaker of Chains".

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring show reviews

Every Spring the networks roll out some new shows trying to fill the gaps left by the failed Fall shows. Hope springs eternal--maybe this time they'll find something that catches on! But from what I have seen so far...I'm not sure we have any big hits. Here are some capsule reviews of some of the new shows I've managed to catch!

Resurrection: what would you do if your long dead loved ones suddenly started coming home? Looking the exact same as they did at the time of their death and with no memory of anything since their unfortunate...accidents? This set of circumstance is the central plot of ABC's Resurrection, which is actually not too bad. In fact, it's pretty good, if a bit meandering.

In the small town of Arcadia, Missouri, people are starting to come back from the dead. Not like zombie hordes, but one or two people here and there. They aren't hungry for brains, but just want to get back to their lives. Except they've been gone for quite some time...and their families aren't sure whether they are the same. All the medical tests seem to indicate and they are normal healthy humans, but clearly something strange is afoot.

Well, that's not ominous at all.

I am enjoying this show more than I thought I would, I think in part because it's way darker than I expected. Not everyone who has come back is a good person and the show is doing a nice job of teasing out subtle clues about the how and why of the resurrections. I genuinely want to find out what happens next and to know what the hell is going on. The cast is also pretty great, especially the always good Omar Epps as a US immigration agent (random, I know) who finds himself at the middle of the mystery.

Resurrection airs Sunday evenings at 9:00 EST and you can catch up with all the episodes over on the show's website.

Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge: Syfy's new show is clearly trying to capture the same magic as the fantastic Face Off. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work for me.

In JHCSC, the contestants are challenged to create and fabricate creatures that are Jim Henson-y in style. Human actors/puppeteers bring the creatures to life (usually from inside the large puppet body) and they are "shot" on a soundstage in the Jim Henson studios in front of the panel of the judges.

I like the concept, but the show just doesn't have the same entertainment value as Face Off. Maybe it's because the challenges are a little more limited as they are constrained by the muppet-style of the overall show's conceit, but I just find it hard to get into. I'll give it a few more episodes, but unless things pick up I don't think I'll stick with it.

Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge airs Tuesday evenings at 10:00 EST on Syfy.

Turn: It doesn't really matter if this new AMC show is terrible (it isn't), because I am going to watch it no matter what. There are two reasons:

1) It takes place during the Revolutionary War, a criminally un-represented area of American history in movies and television.

2) The cast includes JJ Feild who played the dreamy Mr. Henry Tilney in the BBC's most recent adaptation of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. You bros might know him as "the English guy in the beret" who was part of Captain America's team in Captain America: The First Avenger.

It takes a real man to rock a cravat. 

The good news is the show isn't terrible, hurray! It is a bit confusing though, so make sure you are sitting on the thinking side of your couch and are paying attention. It's not really the type of show you can just have on in the background while you wander around your apartment picking up and putting away all your shoes.*

The show tells the story of America's first spy ring...which sounds fancy but really just means it's about this farmer (Jamie Bell, sans Billy Elliot dancing shoes, alas) who lives in British-occupied New York and ends up reluctantly spying for the Continental Army. I say reluctantly not because he was a British loyalist, but because he basically just wants to live with his family and grow cabbages or lettuce or something. But you know, these things happen. And I guess he ends up forming something called the Culper Ring and inventing modern spycraft? This is all according to the show's website. After the first two episodes the spies have only just figured that maybe hanging a special petticoat on a wash line isn't the best way to communicate with each other. Baby steps.

Anyway, it's enjoyable if a bit complicated, but the attention to detail in the sets and costumes is nice. Also, JJ Feild. So you should watch it.

TURN airs Sunday evenings at 9:00 EST on AMC. You can watch the two episodes that have already aired over on the website.

*Just me?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends

Game of Thrones is back, everyone, and Maggie Cats and I are here to chat about it as per usual. Season four’s opener, “Two Swords”, brought us back to Westeros in the aftermath of last season’s brutal and climactic Red Wedding. Though both of us have read the books, the chat below is almost completely spoiler free with one or two very minor exceptions.

 Maggie Cats:  So. Thoughts?

 Clovis:  Broadly, it's always good to see these characters again. And by "these characters" I mean Arya.
I really liked how they're showing her taking one step closer to becoming a total badass.

 Maggie Cats:  Well, if by total badass you mean sociopath, then yes, yes they are.

 Clovis:  But that's the thing, she kind of is one, right? Like, Arya is totally the Batman of Westeros. She's seen her family destroyed in front of her, she's now traveling the world to learn how to become the ultimate badass to go back to destroy those who did her wrong.

 Maggie Cats:  I mean, once she puts on a cape and a mask I will see your point more clearly.

 Clovis:  Given that she sometimes wears a cloak, she's basically only two pointy ears away from becoming a dark knight avenger.

"Lannisters are a superstitious, cowardly lot..."

 Maggie Cats:  I would say she is more of archetype than Batman specifically, but what's great is she kind of busts through the archetype because she is a 12 year old girl.

 Clovis:  Yeah, exactly. And she's learning from the cruelty of everyone around her. She's getting corrupted, but in a way it's the kind of corruption she was always likely to get if she could have gotten her way and been allowed to be a knight.

 Maggie Cats:  Westeros is a cruel, cruel world. it doesn't pay to be ANYBODY.

 Clovis:  Except maybe Littlefinger. FOR NOW...

 Maggie Cats:  Like last year, I was so impressed by the actual structure of the episode. I was impressed that we managed to see almost all the characters and have great moments with all of them.

 Clovis:  I feel like this show has consistently done that well - all the seasons' first episodes do a good job of bringing you back to each character.

 Maggie Cats: AND we met Prince Oberyn. Whom I already adore.

 Clovis:  I liked that they kept him bisexual! I was worried that would get washed away.

"I will attract ALL THE THINGS!"

 Maggie Cats:  Again, HBO. The more sexual the better. I don't understand what it is about HBO that makes even the basic craftsmanship of their shows so much better than network television. It can't just be money.

 Clovis:  I think it's also the commitment that HBO generally puts into seeing something from the bigger picture. That said, sometimes they still tank. This is the network that cancelled Carnivale, after all.

 Maggie Cats:  Still never seen it

 Clovis:  It was amazeballs. I will have to do a blog post. Note to self... But speaking of perplexing, why was Daario played by a different person? The show totally pulled a Darren on us. 

 Maggie Cats:  Oh, it's the same actor who plays Finnick in The Hunger Games. I assumed it was because of his shooting schedule. [Ed note: Actually, Daario was originally played by Ed Skrein, who left Game of Thrones to take up a role in the Transporter movie franchise. Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was played by Sam Clafin. In fairness, Skrein and Clafin do look a lot alike.]

 Clovis:  Also, having now read the books (all bloody 5000 pages of them) I'm kind of disappointed that Daario isn't as garish in the show as he is in the books. I liked all the descriptions of his weird blue hair.

 Maggie Cats:  I agree, I wonder why THAT would be something they would change. Maybe they are going to have evolve into that as they spend more time in the city?

 Clovis:  I suppose the producers wanted to keep the character more in the world that they've established? Grittier and less bright? [Ed. Note: it’s amazing what you can find online. More info here about the shift from a prettier Daario to the new one.]

 Maggie Cats:  but it seems odd not to follow through those notes. Perhaps, and also set him up as a very romantic lead. Remember, in the books Dany doesn't go for his shtick for a loooong time.



 Clovis:  That's true. (Spoilers!)

 Maggie Cats:  I mean, it's clear she's going for it now. She is charmed despite herself. Who wouldn't be, right? I hope they make him a bit swarmier.

 Clovis:  Agreed - I like him a bit smarmy. Makes him more interesting when he's not so earnest. Another thing that's different, but I'm enjoying is how much more developed Margaery is in the show relative to the book and the possible hint that she's going to get more screen time with Brienne.

 Maggie Cats:  oh, god yes, Margaery and her grandmother are two of my favorite characters. Margaery is one smart cookie, but I think she is also a genuinely kind person. When she took Brienne's arm in friendship it felt real.

 Clovis:  It would make a neat change of pace to have someone who is a schemer and a game player, but not have her be a total ass as well. That's a different combination than we've seen.

 Maggie Cats:  Maybe she is just that good at manipulation, but I feel that she is just a nice person. So I am sure she will raped, mutilated, and murdered sometime very soon.

 Clovis:  It's bound to happen. Though, maybe she could end up like a Queen Elizabeth - a good player, but also someone who is generally beloved by people. Or maybe I'm just opening my heart to be stomped on by GRRM and the rest of the team because I've never learned my lesson.

 Maggie Cats:  In my perfect world, Bran ends up overlord with the West with Margaery as Queen, Tyrion as the Hand, and Arrya, the head of the Kinsguard. Actually strike that –  Margaery is in charge of everything, Bran is the master builder, Dany can have the East.

 Clovis:  Podrick takes over Littlefinger's whore houses. The whores go along with this VERY willingly.

 Maggie Cats:  YES, PODRICK! I am trying to remember...but I think in the books he knew all the Dornish house sigils as well. Love that he is smart and sexy. He would totally be the hot nerd in our modern world.

"They say this cat Podrick's a baaaaad mutha - SHUT YO MOUTH! Talking 'bout Pod..."

 Clovis:  He kind of is in Westeros. Basically, it's only going to be so long before some enterprising writer goes back and retells the entire Game of Thrones story from the perspective of Podrick, "Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead"-style.

 Maggie Cats:  I would read that. Change of topic: do you think Tywin knows Jamie's REAL reason for wanting to stay in Kings Landing? So he can fuck his sister, I mean.

 Clovis:  Oh he totally does. He doesn't want to admit it, but there's a part of his brain that knows.

 Maggie Cats:  And what is Cercei's ailment do you think? I don't remember anything from the books about it so discussion shouldn't be a spoiler. Maybe it's the dreaded "change.”

 Clovis:  Yeah, that's was suspicious. I mean, she didn't have the "sudden cough of death" that would suggest she's about to die of tuberculosis, so I'm not sure.

 Maggie Cats:  if it was set in the 1800s she totally would have been hacking. Maybe she has alcohol-related issues.

 Clovis:  Perhaps (avoiding spoilers here) given where Cercei's story arch is about to go in the books, they've written something else into that to make it more poignant or something? Or they could go full soap opera and we could find out that she's pregnant from sleeping with that cousin of hers.

 Maggie Cats:  Perhaps! I like not knowing everything that is going to happen.

 Clovis:   I think they're wise to make slight deviations from the books and give us different stories. The Arya/Tywin scenes from Season 2 were some of my favorites - I loved how well those scenes worked. And they're nowhere in the books.

 Maggie Cats:  almost all of my favorite moments are actually scenes between characters not in the book, like Cersei/Robert Season 1, Arya/Tywin Season 2, and any time Littlefinger and Varys bitch at each other. FLOVE!

 Clovis:  All the more reason why I'm hoping for more between Brienne and Margaery. Those two would make for some interesting scenes given that Brienne actually loved Renly and Margaery, well, probably didn't but was willing to play the game.

 Maggie Cats:  Good point. I like scenes with Margaery and anybody.

"OMG Totes BFF!"

 Clovis:  So without skirting too close to the spoilers, how quickly do we think we're getting to the royal wedding?

 Maggie Cats:  It looked like next episode, but I don't believe it.

 Clovis:  The first ep said it was two weeks again “in world” time. I'm eager to see how they do this. I imagine we'll have lots to chat about after that happens.

 Maggie Cats:  Most definitely!! I love this show. I enjoyed the first season but wouldn't say I loved it, but as they get more and more into it (and surprise me with changes from the books) I really love it.

 Clovis:  I'm just impressed it ever got made. I read this article that points out all the previous shows that needed to fail for us to get Game of Thrones.

And with that, we’re out for this week. Tune in again next week for discussion following Season four’s second episode, titled “The Lion and the Rose.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Television! Now Fortified With Morality!

Going back to when I was a kid, there were certain rules in my house regarding television. One rule was “don’t sit too close” on the thought that an expansive view of a screen that took up my entire field of vision would somehow melt my eyes. (In retrospect, given my need for corrective lenses, that one may not be off.) Another rule involved what I wasn’t allowed to watch after 10pm, which for years I assumed was some secret cache of information that would blow the lid of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the truth about the reality of Batman, but turns out it had more to do with swearing and lower-cut dresses.

But there was always one maxim that overruled all others; one propagated by everyone from my grandmother to my teachers to the slightly scary old neighbor woman who lived next to our house: Too much TV will rot your brain.

Silly television. That's what my smart phone is for.

The notion that watching too much television would permanently warp my development, both moral and intellectual, was taken as a given. It was rooted in a firm discomfort with the notion that this magic box was going to create a legion of unintelligent, immoral deviants that would populate the world and cause things like the decline of the church and the end of wholesome family entertainment about singing families who perform for Nazis. 

It’s into this mindset that panic over the rise of reality television has really taken root in a small echo chamber of the world. (One that is, ironically, increasingly becoming accessible to people who fear that going away from The Way Things Used to Be through another temptation of modernity – the computer.) that panic scaled significant heights with MTV’s reality franchise 16 and Pregnant and the show’s three spinoff series: Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, and Teen Mom 3. (Note to people who don’t watch this stuff – yes, those are the real titles. I was suspicious too.)

"We're empowered!"

Since 2009, the four shows have followed the stories of teenage high school girls through their pregnancy and first year of motherhood, a formula that has been perfect for MTV because not only does it bring in teen viewers but it also gives moral crusaders something to scream about and those who are secretly or not-so-secretly titillated by sexually active teenage girls things something to drool over. The predictions when these shows began were dire: They would ruin society, they would make pregnancy into something that would be glamorous for teenage girls what with the promise of a TV series dedicated to your pregnancy and the attendant People Magazine cover spreads that went with them, that we’ve done wrong by Our Girls by not making them into proper ladies who knew how to keep their knees together long enough for some boy to agree to marry them first.

But guess what? It hasn’t happened. In fact, turns out the shows have led to a decline in teenage birth rates. Turns out that when teenage girls watch what happens when one of their peers gets pregnant and gets her own TV show, the tendency isn’t to emulate her but to go running to the nearest CVS to stock up on birth control. Seriously – the study in that link above mentions that upon watching the shows, girls show an increase in internet searching and Tweeting about birth control and abortion.

This is, obviously, good news. Aside from the fact that it’s just nice to know that teenage girls are more competent and capable of analysis than we collectively give them credit for, it’s also bodes well for the possibility that I may finally be able to convince my mom to let me watch TV shows late at night for once.

Friday, April 04, 2014


Another day, another series finale review. This time, guest-blogger Priya tackles the Psych finale. --Maggie Cats

For the uninitiated: Psych is at its core a criminal procedural with a twist. Shawn Spencer (played by the hilarious James Roday) masquerades with the Santa Barbara Police Department as a psychic detective. The twist? He's not really psychic, but is really good with deductive reasoning and sees details that no one else can. Together with his BFF Gus (Dule Hill, whom I LOVE) and a great cast of characters at the SBPD they solve crime and engage in entertaining tom-foolery.

What worked for the show was just how un-serious it was. In an era where CSI, Law and Order, and other macabre shows fill the airways, Psych always took its crime with a level of tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness. With guest stars like Cary Elwes playing an art-thief con artist, or Ally Sheedy as a nefarious crazy villain (who was just one member of the Breakfast Club to appear on the show) they upped the ante each week. 

Psych was also incredibly successful in pulling off the comedy-as-parody routine. Many episodes each season would take on a theme that mimicked other shows and movies. For example, the penultimate episode was called "A Nightmare on State Street" and involved Zombies and classic shots from horror movies that scared me silly.

So what about the finale? Did they do it justice? I think so. The creators took the hour as an opportunity to circle back on some eight-year long jokes with surprising guest stars (Val Kilmer!) while giving friends one last glimpse of team Psych in action. In the finale episode, Shawn tries to give Gus one last case as he tries to tell him he is closing down the business to move to San Francisco to be with his lady love, Juliet. In the end the show gave us a satisfying conclusion. Spoiler Alert! Gus moves to San Francisco where they may have to compete with Monk in the consulting biz....and they live happily ever after. Shawn, Juliet, and Gus. One big happy family.

Also, the theme song is pretty awesome.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

HIMYM Finale

I watched the first two seasons of How I Met Your Mother, but then had to give it up because it conflicted with too many other shows that were higher on my priority list. But I've stayed aware of the plot developments and have followed the...shall we say, vocal, reactions to the finale. Personally, I thought it sounded like the perfect ending, but that's clearly not the only opinion on the subject. Reporting from the ground (and the eye of the hurricane) is TV Slut guest-poster Priya, who puts it all in perspective. --Maggie Cats

It's not entirely unexpected that following the How I Met Your Mother finale that the internet, as my roommate stated, exploded. Like the LOST finale, people tended to gravitate towards the "we're good with it" to "virulent hatred" sides of the spectrum.

So the question is "was the finale a betrayal or...wait for it...the natural end to a the story Ted has been telling us all along?" For nine years we've been teased with glimpses of this elusive woman: A heel, a yellow umbrella, a classroom. The entire series lurched towards this one fact: that the show would end when Ted found his soulmate.

Of course in the intervening years we got to know 'the gang:' Marshall, Lilly, Barney, and Robin. We knew pretty early on that any of Ted's previous relationships, including the one with Robin were doomed, she was after all 'Aunt' Robin. We believed the premise and the implied promise. The show would end with the mother. We knew how it would all end.

Let's detour for a moment. For me this show was about more than just that final one hour we got this Monday. I told another one of my roommates that for nine years once a week I've had 20 minutes of joy. A show that made me laugh and surprised me with songs (Nothing Suit's me Like a Suit!) and slap bets; Crazy-Hot Scales, and Marshmallow adorableness; DOWISATREPLA, Cockamouse, and Challenge Accepted!

Granted it wasn't a perfect show--its terrible lack of main character diversity and that horrible Arcadian storyline--but I loved each character as they transitioned from point to point in their lives.

So when the credits rolled on the finale on Monday I was satisfied.True the storytelling for this season could have gone differently. I wish that Robin and Barney's wedding which lasted the whole season, had not resulted in us seeing their three years marriage over in a blink of an eye. But I think the finale highlighted what made this show important.

The gang. The big moments.

The idea that life is messy and that while one day matters and can go on forever, we might not always be in each other's lives as we change and grow.

Don't get me wrong, I think the fact that Ted finally meets Tracy (the mother) only to lose her to illness after seven years is tragic and maybe emotionally manipulative, but as this wonderful piece from the AV club says it wasn't the mother in How I Met Your Mother that mattered it was the How. (Also read: Slate on HIMYM)

So I was ok that Barney, despite trying for three years, really only changed with unexpected fatherhood, and that Marshall and Lilly dealt with life's trials through continued domesticity.


But this story is about the mother right? And the LOST passengers were never in purgatory. In both cases we were never really lied to.

In the final moments of the finale, Ted's kids point out to their father that it's Robin who he still loves, and can still have. And I'll take a moment to acknowledge that after almost a decade of a revolving-door Ted-Robin relationship that finally ended with him letting her go just episodes ago; to have them end up together nearly twenty-five years later is frustrating for some. But after twenty-five years, after Robin lived her dream of traveling, and Ted had his kids -- the two reasons why they couldn't make it work--it's nice that they had a chance to try and be happy again.

So six years after losing Tracy, Ted steals a blue french horn and with deliberate symmetry, reminiscent of John Cusack's boom box, holds it up for Robin to see. It's a big moment.

It was romantic...-ish. I mean, at the end of the day, it's still a big blue french horn, right?

Let's close with this: In thinking about the end we can choose option "A:"

Lilly: "So what is this all just over now?"

Robin: "It doesn't have to be a sad thing."

Or Option "B:"

Lilly: "Oh god this is too real, Marshall's next."

Whatever the final decision, "Let's Go to the Mall, Today!